Woolshed on family farm recycled into stylish and modern home
His granny doubted this conversion would work, remembering the days when it stunk of sheep droppings. But once it was done she thought the new home was ‘magical’.
Words by Sue Hoffart, photographs by Jane Ussher.
Barrowloads of manure and a little scepticism marked the start of this agricultural contractor’s inventive building project.
He had to shovel away 50 years’ worth of sheep droppings before starting work on the North Canterbury woolshed that became his home on the family farm.
Although most people were intrigued with his project, one relative was forthright about her doubts. His granny, who remembered its distinctive aroma from her days of delivering freshly made scones to shearers, couldn’t believe they’d ever get rid of the woolshed pong.
However, once it was finished, the family matriarch thought the home was ‘‘magical’’ and was happy to concede that all ovine odours had been banished.
Not that there weren’t woolshed-specific hurdles to overcome. A contractor had to re-sand the tongue-and-groove floors over days to deal with the layers of lanolin that oozed out of the timber.
Regulations demanded new piles beneath load-bearing walls and extra beams to support the roof. All the corrugated iron had to come off so that the walls could be straightened and lined – the rimu structure had warped with age.
The home embraces its origins for both fiscal and aesthetic reasons. Original fittings and materials were re-used and re-invented wherever possible.
‘‘I’m probably quite frugal at the best of times, but... I wanted to do it properly. It had to look right too,’’ the owner says.
So the wool-classing table received a glass top and was commandeered as a dining table. The builder managed to find a way to rehang the original giant wooden door so it could again slide closed
over the new entrance.
The furnishings also pay homage to the farm’s history – curtains feature a stencilled border with his grandfather’s initials and the farm name. The tin stencils, used for marking wool bales, now hang above the stairs.
The stairs themselves were a team effort. The treads, made from an old ceiling beam, sat unadorned for three years while they pondered what to do about railings. An employee hit on the idea of replicating the design of a sheep-loading ramp and another employee helped weld it together. ‘‘We’re all quite rural-oriented. We like to try to give anything a go.’’
Which is also how they came to make light shades out of sheep netting to hang above the dining table. And the same inventiveness saw bale hooks turned into a coat rack, although it was pure sentiment that spurred the owner to attach the hooks to timber bearing his grandfather’s handwriting.
He used to weigh his dogs to keep tabs on their condition, so the coat rack reveals vital statistics for Tip, Ben, Silk, Rob and Nick.
It also shows what is possible when history and ingenuity meet inside a shed.